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Population-Based Quality Indicators for End-of-Life Cancer Care: A Systematic Review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.3388
Pages (from-to)142-150
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA oncology
Issue number1
Early online date26 Oct 2019
E-pub ahead of print26 Oct 2019
Published1 Jan 2020

King's Authors


Importance: Improving the quality of cancer care is an international priority. Population-based quality indicators (QIs) are key to this process yet remain almost exclusively used for evaluating care during the early, often curative, stages of disease.

Objectives: To identify all existing QIs for the care of patients with cancer who have advanced disease and/or are at the end of life and to evaluate each indicator's measurement properties and appropriateness for use.

Evidence Review: For this systematic review, 5 electronic databases (MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Library) were searched from inception through February 4, 2019, for studies describing the development, review, and/or testing of QIs for the care of patients with cancer who have advanced disease and/or are at the end of life. For each QI identified, descriptive information was extracted and 6 measurement properties (acceptability, evidence base, definition, feasibility, reliability, and validity) were assessed using previously established criteria, with 4 possible ratings: positive, intermediate, negative, and unknown. Ratings were collated and each QI classified as appropriate for use, inappropriate for use, or of limited testing. Among the QIs determined as appropriate for use, a recommended shortlist was generated by excluding those that were specific to patient subgroups and/or care settings; related QIs were identified, and the indicator with the highest rating was retained.

Findings: The search yielded 7231 references, 35 of which (from 28 individual studies) met the eligibility criteria. Of 288 QIs extracted (260 unique), 103 (35.8%) evaluated physical aspects of care and 109 (37.8%) evaluated processes of care. Quality indicators relevant to psychosocial (18 [6.3%]) or spiritual and cultural (3 [1.0%]) care domains were limited. Eighty QIs (27.8%) were determined to be appropriate for use, 116 (40.3%) inappropriate for use, and 92 (31.9%) of limited testing. The measurement properties with the fewest positive assessments were acceptability (38 [13.2%]) and validity (63 [21.9%]). Benchmarking data were reported for only 16 QIs (5.6%). The final 15 recommended QIs came from 6 studies.

Conclusions and Relevance: The findings suggest that only a small proportion of QIs developed for the care of patients with cancer who have advanced disease and/or are at the end of life have received adequate testing and/or are appropriate for use. Further testing may be needed, as is research to establish benchmarking data and to expand QIs relevant to psychosocial, cultural, and spiritual care domains.

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